The governing body for equestrian sports in Australia is revisiting the question of whether vaccination against the deadly Hendra virus will be mandatory for horses attending affiliated events nationally.
Equestrian Australia yesterday revoked its Hendra Vaccination By-Law, effective immediately.
There has been growing comment in social media about the vaccine, which prompted the Australian Veterinary Association to issue a statement yesterday backing the safety of the vaccine.
More than 320,000 doses have so far been administered to horses to protect them against the dangerous bat-borne virus, with veterinarians saying the side-effects have been mild.
Equestrian Australia’s by-law has been suspended since early last September and has never been operative. State branches supported the EA Board in conducting a national consultative review. The national board acted swiftly last year to appoint a panel to carry out the review.
Equestrian Australia said yesterday that the panel which it appointed would remain in place to complete a full assessment on the risk that the Hendra virus created for affiliated events nationally.
The governing body’s chairman, Dr Warwick Vale, said the decision to revoke the by-law was designed to provide the panel with what he called clear space on the potential risks the Hendra virus presents for the sport long term.
“I recognise that our members require more information, more time and more engagement about the risks that the Hendra virus creates for our members, our clubs and events nationally,” he said.
“That is why we will keep the panel of experts in place to carry out the review. The decision to revoke the current by-law provides the panel with clear space to provide a truly independent assessment and recommendations about how the sport should address this issue in the long term.
“Member and horse welfare remain at the centre of all decision-making on this issue and the board welcomes the advice from the expert panel to assist in addressing Hendra and the Hendra vaccine in the future,” Vale said.
The panel will consider wide-ranging factors, including export issues, the policies of other industries and stakeholders, as well as adverse reactions.
The panel’s findings will be presented to Equestrian Australia’s board and state branches. They also will be made available to the public.
Several formal channels for members and the public to share their concerns, experiences and suggestions are available. More than 100 submissions were received during the first public consultation period.
The review panel anticipates handing down its recommendations before July.
While the by-law is revoked, Equestrian Australia is encouraging event organising committees to complete a biosecurity risk self-assessment of their events.
The review panel comprises:
- Vicki Burgess – Secretary, Eventing NSW; Event Organiser.
- Professor James Gilkerson – Professor of Veterinary Microbiology and Director of the Centre for Equine Infectious Disease at the University of Melbourne.
- Sue McDermott – Chairman, Equestrian Tasmania; NCAS Coach.
- Dr Deborah Middleton – Research Team Leader and Senior Veterinary Pathologist at the CSIRO. Dr Middleton leads projects within the Animal Biosecurity research area at the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
- Dr Cameron Osborne – Sports and Exercise Medicine Physician; President, Queensland International Three Day Event.